LOYAL ROMAN CATHOLICS are familiar with Pope Saint Pius V’s Bull Quo Primum, but many are not aware that this same great pope brought forth under the direction of The Council of Trent an authoritative Catechism that was to have priority of use by all parish priests in the world. From the Council of Trent we receive this directive: “But the Fathers deemed it of the first importance that a work should appear, sanctioned by the authority of the Council, from which pastors and all others on whom the duty of imparting instruction devolves, may be able to seek and find reliable matter for the edification of the faithful; that, as there is one Lord, one Faith, there may also be one standard and prescribed form of propounding the dogmas of faith, and instructing Christians in all of the duties of piety.”
For nearly 400 years the Trent Catechism stood as the ‘‘one standard” to teach the “dogmas of faith”. But human nature being what it is, by 1900, much of the world had become lax and the proper teaching of the faith was again on the decline. Then another great Saint and Pope, Pius X, extended the order by St. Pius V to command all pastors to perform their duty to teach the faithful using the Catechism of Trent.
In Acerbo Nimis, an encyclical letter issued in 1905, Pope St. Pius X states the following: “…the chief cause of the present indifference … is to be found above all in ignorance of things divine.” “In matters of religion, the majority of men in our times must be considered uninstructed.” The Saint then established catechetical regulations and proclaims: “We … strictly command that they be observed and carried out in all dioceses of the world.” He further emphasizes: “The catechetical instruction shall be based on the CATECHISM OF THE COUNCIL OF TRENT.”
How important was it to this great pope that his orders be carried out? To all bishops he says, “We decree and command this by virtue of Our Apostolic Authority. It now rests with you to put it into prompt and complete execution in your respective dioceses, and the power of your authority to see to it that these prescriptions of Ours be not neglected or, what amounts to the same thing, that they be not carried out carelessly or superficially.”
What is it about the TRENT CATECHISM that caused the only two canonized Saints in the Chair of Peter in 400 years to hold it in such high esteem? First, we must realize that in 1545, when the Council of Trent was convened, the heretics, Luther, Calvin, and others, had spread their errors far and wide. In previous history, most heresies attacked one or a few dogmas of the faith and ecumenical councils were called to re-establish and clarify God’s revealed Truth on these few matters. This time, the Protestants were openly questioning all the dogmas of the Faith. The Council of Trent had to address itself to the entirety of Catholic dogma. And the Council Fathers did so with such holy thoroughness that their dogmatic decrees were infallibly declared by Pope Pius IV, and promulgated by Pope Saint Pius V. It is for this reason the Council of Trent is universally regarded as the greatest of the general councils of the Church and is often referred to as “the infallible Council of Trent.”
It is from these dogmatic decrees that the Tridentine Catechism was formed and all through these four centuries since, it has been held in highest authority by theologians and popes. As an example, in his Bull of 1761, Pope Clement XIII wrote that “The Catechism contains a clear explanation of all that is necessary for salvation” and that “no other catechism can be compared with it.”
The Catechism is divided into four parts: The Apostle’s Creed, The Sacraments, The Ten Commandments, and The Lord’s Prayer. Each of these parts is explained in much detail and with indepth references to Holy Scripture, thus it includes all the basics that a Christian should learn.
The question that must be asked in our day is: “If the Church has given us such a superior teaching guide, why are we using anything else?” To answer this we need to realize the extent of influence of anti-Catholic and liberal tendencies within the Church the last 200 years. Ever since the Masonic Revolution in 1789, the subtle heresy that says that one can be saved in any religion has penetrated Catholic thinking to the point that many today believe this error as if it were part of Catholic dogma.
Father Michael Muller, C.S.S.R., was a highly respected theologian in America in the 19th Century, and he warned, in 1877, of the influence of Liberal Catholics. He said Liberal Catholics falsely assert “that we must be generous in our religious feelings toward non-Catholics; that a Catechism, therefore, in which every truth taught by the Church is set forth in its full bearing, is not fit to be put in the hands of our Children…” The Liberal Catholic also believes “that the world has entered a new phase, and consequently the Church should accommodate herself to the spirit of the age.” So now we see as a small seed of error many years ago this seed has grown up with the wheat, until today the Liberals have nearly total influence over the prevailing thought within the Church.
The Liberal Catholics are not true Catholics and through their influence we have received catechisms that are less than, and inferior to, the CATECHISM OF TRENT. The so-called BALTIMORE CATECHISM is one example of how subtle this liberalism can be. Following we have a comparison of THE TRENT CATECHISM with the BALTIMORE CATECHISM on two dogmatic points. THE BALTIMORE CATECHISM: “No one can be saved except by being united to the Catholic Church. It is like Noah’s Ark, which saved men from the flood. Only through Christ and his Mystical Body can men be saved. They must be either in the ark of the church or at least hanging onto the ropes which trail from its sides.” Also in this Catechism: “But he who finds himself outside the Church without fault of his own, and who lives a good life, can be saved by the love called charity, which unites unto God, and in a spiritual way also to the Church…” THE TRENT CATECHISM: “Infidels are outside the Church because they never belonged to, or never knew the Church and were never made partakers of any of her Sacraments.” “She (the church) is also called universal, because all who desire eternal salvation must cling to and embrace her, like those who entered the ark to escape perishing in the flood.” “… the ark of Noah … was a symbol of the Church, which God has so constituted that all who enter herein through Baptism may be safe from danger or eternal death, while such as are outside the Church, like those who were not in the ark are overwhelmed by their own crimes.”
In other words, according to TRENT, one must have ENTERED the Ark, not hang onto the ropes on the outside as THE BALTIMORE CATECHISM presumes, because once this assumption is made, it opens doors that might allow anyone to be a part of the Church when in fact he is not. Also, can ignorance be an excuse, as is claimed in THE BALTIMORE CATECHISM? THE TRENT CATECHISM quotes from Optatus of Mileve: “You cannot be excused on the score of ignorance, knowing as you do that in the city of Rome the episcopal chair was first conferred on Peter, …” Also, Pope Saint Pius X quotes from his predecessor, Benedict XIV, the following: “We declare that a great number of those who are condemned to eternal punishment suffer that everlasting calamity because of ignorance of those mysteries of faith which must be known and believed in order to be numbered among the elect.” It is easily seen from this, that there would be no need for the Church and all its missionary work if ignorance can get you into Heaven. It has been said that if ignorance of civil tax law doesn’t excuse you from paying those taxes, then ignorance of God’s Law, which is the highest authority, doesn’t excuse you from knowing and obeying His Law to reach salvation.
The Church has very clearly pronounced three explicit and infallibly declared statements on the question of salvation, which each and every Catholic in the world must accept totally in his mind or face the danger of losing his soul. The third and latest ex cathedra proclamation of this dogma from Pope Eugene IV, 1441, the Bull Cantate Domino reads as follows: “The most Holy Roman Catholic Church firmly believes, professes, and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews, and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great at it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remains within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church.”
And so it is that THE BALTIMORE CATECHISM, which otherwise contains many good teaching aids, is used today by some loyal Catholics as the bottom line for Catholic Truth. Naturally it seems orthodox compared to the obviously heretical books that pass for “Catechisms” in official use in most dioceses today. But does not reason tell us, in these very troubled times, when in doubt go back to the solid rock of Catholic Truth? What better recommendation could we have than Pope Saint Pius V promulgating the Tridentine Catechism and Pope Saint Pius X, after nearly 400 years, extending and reinforcing his order?
The Catholic Church is built up by its saints and it proclaims its dogmas infallibly, having been entrusted by Christ with the sacred deposit of Faith. The primary reason for the Church canonizing its saints is for us to follow their example and defend the Church just as they did.
Every Catholic home should have and use the CATECHISM OF THE COUNCIL OF TRENT.